Cable Tech

Cablevision Waiver Catches More Heat

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is still plenty upset about that Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) set-top waiver.

In a 19-page document filed Tuesday, the CEA argued that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's Media Bureau "overstepped its authority" last month by extending the waiver to 2010. Cablevision said it needed the extra time to build and deploy a new "open" downloadable conditional access system (DCAS).

The CEA is demanding a full Commission review on the extension order.

Without the waiver, Cablevision would have to move to a security system based on CableCARD or some other FCC-approved system. Most operators had to make that move by July 1, 2007. Cablevision got a waiver for its SmartCard-based security system through July 1, 2009, and last month the FCC extended that to 2010 -- which is the move the CEA is so unhappy about. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven', Cablevision Seeks Extended Security Waiver, and Cablevision Scores Set-Top Waiver Extension .)

Cablevision said it needed the extension to develop an open DCAS based largely on the NDS Ltd. key ladder (K-LAD). Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) are developing the relevant set-top boxes.

The CEA opposed all this from the start, claiming the MSO's downloadable system "would end common reliance on CableCARDs." (See CEA Chirps at Cablevision Set-Top Request .)

In Tuesday's filing, the CEA cites documents where the Media Bureau admits it never got specific details on Cablevision's open DCAS and therefore shouldn't have extended the waiver. Moreover, the CEA argues the FCC didn't meet its obligation to seek public comment on the matter.

The CEA added that it remains supportive of the development of a "single national downloadable security interface" that could eventually supplant CableCARD, but argues that Cablevision's approach falls short of that.

Cablevision declined to comment.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have tried to develop a DCAS that complies with the FCC's ban on integrated security, but that project, run by the joint venture PolyCipher LLC , is pretty much mothballed. Although DCAS has been envisioned to be a more elegant and cost-effective approach than the CableCARD, the MSOs were afraid it would be more expensive. (See DCAS Can Wait and Cisco, Moto Take Control of DCAS .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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